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When she was already in Ghana for her summer internship, Diane sent me this final blog post of 2013-2014. I held it, thinking that September would be optimal timing. Current students may want to know about Diane’s search for external scholarships, while applicants may want to know that such a thing is possible. New posts from continuing student bloggers Diane, Liam, and Mark should return soon, and I’ll be adding new voices from among the first-year students.
For prospective students applying to graduate programs, the question of how to pay for a master’s degree is often a huge part of the decision-making process.
While Fletcher was my number one choice in programs going into the application process, the scholarship aid I received from Fletcher also made my enrollment decision very easy. Nonetheless, Fletcher scholarships don’t generally cover the full cost of tuition, and certainly don’t include living costs, leaving me to figure out how to cover the rest.
Like many students who worked for a number of years prior to Fletcher, I had some savings, and I knew I would also need to take a loan. As I did my financial planning, I realized that my savings would be gone by the end of the first year, and I would have to try to find ways to minimize the amount of debt I would be taking on. This led me to the search for external scholarships.
As I reviewed scholarship opportunities, I found myself in the unfortunate position of being an international student from a developed country, but a country that itself offers very few scholarships for international study. This left me searching for scholarships that I often couldn’t apply for. I wasn’t very successful with my applications before starting at Fletcher, and I planned to submit more applications for my second year of study.
Once I was at Fletcher, I found my greatest resource to be my fellow students. I took the opportunity to chat with other international students about scholarships they knew of, and shared information. I also utilized the resources around me — in particular, I took advantage of the writing tutor program, to get feedback on my application essays before I sent them in.
This turned out to be a positive process! I applied for two external scholarships for my second year, and was successful in receiving one of them. Two of my Fletcher friends who had shared with me the process of applying for external scholarships were also successful. This highlights one of my favorite things about Fletcher: the spirit of collaboration, and how this often leads to shared success.
At the end of the spring semester, Liam, one of our student bloggers, offered an end-of-year post. I eagerly grabbed it, but I’ve held it until now because it reflects both Liam’s first year at Fletcher and also his suggestions for incoming students. I’ll just note that Liam wrote his post when the Red Sox season was looking a little brighter than it is now!
Sitting here, finally having some time to reflect on the blur that is the spring semester, I’m at a loss to describe what an incredible experience my first year at Fletcher has been. A few words come to mind — demanding, challenging, (extremely) busy — but what it really boils down to is one of the most remarkable and rewarding years I’ve had. From making new friends, to learning an incredible amount about the world in which we live, to taking the time to really comprehend my life’s journey to this point, this year at Fletcher was incredible. Taking all that into consideration, I thought about the experiences I’m glad I’ve had both in and out of school, and I wanted to share a few “musts” for students at Fletcher.
1. Go to Fletcher events. From culture nights, to the Blakeley Halloween party, to The Los Fletcheros concerts, to simple gatherings of friends on a Friday, some of the best times to be had at Fletcher are outside the classroom. Taking the time to relax and get to know my classmates has been so incredibly rewarding. Time goes by pretty fast here and it will be over before you know it, so enjoy it while you can.
2. Go to the Boston Marathon. I was blessed with the opportunity to run this year through the Tufts Marathon Team, but if running for four(-ish) hours is not your cup of tea, experiencing the event is still an absolute must. Over a million fans lining the street for over 26 miles, coming together in support of the city and the runners, was just an indescribable thing to see. The Boston Marathon is, in my eyes, the most egalitarian sporting event in the world and it is not to be missed.
3. Go watch the Red Sox. I might be a bit biased as a life-long Sox fan, but anyone who spends time in Boston should experience Fenway Park. Especially after the Sox won the 2013 World Series, taking in an afternoon or evening at “America’s Favorite Ballpark” is a great distraction from school, and singing “Sweet Caroline” with 36,000 friends is pretty great, too.
4. Get to know Boston. Boston is so full of history and culture — it’s critical to get out and see it. Running along the Esplanade on the Charles River, exploring the Freedom Trail, relaxing at Boston Common, going to concerts — there is so much to do year-round in the city, so putting down the books and getting out is something you just have to do.
5. Get out of Boston. New England offers a ton of things to do. Whale watching off Cape Cod, skiing in Maine, hiking in New Hampshire, seeing the foliage in the fall, these are just a few of the awesome things this area of the country offers. Taking a backpacking trip out in the Berkshires during spring break was probably the most relaxing thing I’ve done in the past year, and it was vital to helping me reset to finish the semester strong.
In summary, it’s been an incredible year — one I wouldn’t trade for the world — and I’m looking forward to a 2014-15 academic year that is just as incredible and memorable.
The reason why the Fletcher staff is lonely all summer long is that our students are so successful in finding internships that meet their career objectives, with the result that they’re generally out of town. Diane, our student blogger, tells us about her internship search, and shares a couple of photos from her summer post.
At Fletcher, the summer between the first and second years of the MALD or MIB program is open for students to use as they wish. While internships are not required, students are encouraged to pursue one, and most do. Others may prefer to use the time to develop their language skills, research or prepare their Capstone Project, or travel.
Coming into Fletcher I knew the biggest gap on my résumé was my lack of field experience. Therefore my goal for the summer revolved around going to a developing country to work. I was hoping to find a research project that fit at least one of my interests: food security, mobile technology, or impact evaluations.
In January I began my search, reaching out to alumni at the DC Career Trip, speaking with second years about their experiences, and doing a lot of internet research. My best resource became my professors, who were able to put me in touch with some of their contacts. I sent a lot of emails, and got a few great leads; however, as the months went on, I still didn’t have an offer.
One organization that interested me and that I had identified early on was Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). Friends at Fletcher who had either previously worked or interned with IPA in the past informed me that the organization advertises internships quite late, so I kept an eye on the website, and applied while still continuing my search through my networks.
Right before exams I had a flurry of interviews for different opportunities, and on the day of my last exams, I received an offer to spend my summer in Tamale, Ghana with IPA. As I had already planned to head home in a week, I packed my stuff the next day and flew to Australia where, in amongst catching up with family and friends, I organized my visa, booked flights, got immunizations and anti-malarial tablets, searched for a mosquito net, packed for some very warm weather, and got on a plane (or four planes, to be exact).
IPA designs and evaluates potential solutions to poverty using randomized evaluations and is based out of Yale University with offices across the world. I am working on a project that involves offering rainfall insurance to farmers and I will be investigating whether this insurance can be made available through other organizations once the project is complete. I am sure it is going to be a great summer, and look forward to returning to Fletcher in the fall to apply what I have learnt.
After two lovely years of working with Roxanne, an amazing writer, I’m sad that her student blogger role is coming to an end. Though I’m hopeful to include her thoughts in the Admissions Blog in the future, the focus will shift to her post-Fletcher activities. Today, Roxanne shares her reflections on two years at Fletcher.
I remember reading the Admissions Blog from across the world and wanting to experience the buzz in Fletcher’s Hall of Flags that Jessica so frequently described. It, therefore, feels surreal to sit at my desk at home — the same desk where I have typed so many words and formatted so many footnotes — to write my closing reflections on this chapter of my Fletcher education. On May 18, I marched in Fletcher’s Commencement ceremonies and was once again moved by the love and care that run so deep in this community. When I look back on two years at Fletcher, I will, indeed, remember compassion, kindness, and care — for the world and for each other. As I had promised Jessica, I would also like to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the other major themes and lessons that have punctuated my time at Fletcher.
- Prepare to be humbled by your peers. Professors, university leaders, staff, and guest speakers are all incredibly inspiring and will give you much to reflect on, but prepare for an immense amount of your learning to come from your peers. Some of my fondest memories of learning and community alike at Fletcher have taken place in the company of what a friend has affectionately dubbed “the Ladies who Law.” Choose your study groups well — those are the individuals who will help you make sense of econometrics or piece together the complex concepts of international law, and who will be entrusted with much of your collective learning. Know that there will be times when you understand concepts less than your peers, and times when you will have to shoulder more of the work or be better prepared. Treat your group work seriously and your peers with respect, and you will find yourself referencing their thoughts and insights just as much as you do those of your professors.
- Advocate for what you care about. I have always been drawn to the intersection of identities: conflict and humanitarian practitioner, scholar and activist. Inhabiting the intersections can be challenging, and clarifying my role in conflict-affected settings requires demarcating how these different identities interact. However, as a student, I was not prepared to cast any of the identities aside. I came to Fletcher to study and learn, but when I noticed that there was an opportunity to think more creatively as an institution about inclusive security, diversity, and analysis of gender and power, I leaped at the chance to facilitate these conversations. Looking back, I cherish the formation, advocacy, and momentum of the Gender Initiative at Fletcher and cannot imagine my time here without channeling my energy towards it. Advocating for what I (and many others!) cared about was not required for my courses. It was not an extra-curricular activity, per se. At the same time, it felt essential to me and it aligned my personal values, professional experience, and sense of what I wanted to give to this community. When you see opportunities to reflect on Fletcher as an institution, and to do so collaboratively and constructively, don’t shy away from them.
- Say yes. In an earlier post with advice to incoming students, I had suggested that you think about what you hope to accomplish at Fletcher prior to arriving. In this post, I suggest carving out some room for surprise. Try a class that is outside your field of expertise — just because it’s interesting, or because you want to learn from that particular professor, or just because you’re curious. Attend a talk that you don’t think is for you. Sign up to learn to dance salsa for the Culture Nights — even if you’ve never danced before. Some of the best learning takes place when you say yes and open yourself up to vulnerability, surprise, and the opportunity to be a novice again.
I am not quite ready to leave Fletcher — but perhaps that is a testament to the community itself: Fletcher inspires in all of us a constant desire to learn, challenge ourselves, and strive — and, at the same time, it sparks such an investment in our shared bonds that we are reluctant to leave the place and its people behind. Graduation has, however, catapulted us into the world and I am looking forward to watching these relationships evolve and reconfigure and to being part of our continued, shared learning. I promise to come visit on the Admissions Blog as an alumna from time to time — until then, thank you for reading, and have a wonderful summer!
With exams in their rear-view mirrors, our student bloggers (even those about to graduate) are finding a little time to write. Today, Roxanne thinks back two years to the summer before she enrolled at Fletcher.
I am typing this blog post in the midst of celebrations and errands. In yards and fields around campus, faculty, staff, and classmates alike are celebrating our impending graduation and the memories we have made in our time at Fletcher. In the meantime, books find their way back to the library, a cap and gown are awaiting my pick-up at the campus bookstore, and stacks of paperwork require review. As I am almost across the finish line of my time as a Fletcher graduate student, I wanted to look back and share some advice with incoming students.
Rest and reflect: Spend the summer before Fletcher relaxing and asking yourself questions about how you wish to spend your graduate school years. You do not need to reach precise answers — in fact, these answers will change when you arrive on campus, and multiple times after that, too. Rather, I encourage asking yourself what you seek to accomplish at Fletcher. Are you trying to build particular technical skills? If so, what are these skills and to what end are you hoping to hone them? Are you hoping to develop a close relationship with particular professors who could be your mentors? Are you interested in conducting original research? Do you hope to write publishable work? Again — you do not need the answers immediately, but asking these questions early (and often) will ensure that you approach your time at Fletcher with a consciousness that helps shape your path here. And rest. Rest rest rest rest rest. You will need it.
Read for pleasure: I have loved most everything I have read at Fletcher, but I have also missed selecting my own leisure reading and having the time to do it. Make a pleasure reading list for the summer before starting at Fletcher and carve out the time to dive into it. Keep adding to the list while at Fletcher, as your professors and classmates will have great recommendations. You will soon graduate and “read for fun” will be at the top of your wish list again!
Browse with an open mind: I have received a few emails from prospective students asking questions like, “Should I take this class or that in my third semester?” While planning ahead is always a good idea, it may be more useful to browse without trying to make concrete plans for all four semesters here. By that, I mean that you should go through the Fletcher website and learn about the different offerings on campus. What classes are available? How do students spend their time? What are the research centers and what do they do? Which faculty bios resonate most with your interests and why? What are the various publications? Knowing about your options will broaden your view of Fletcher, and may be more useful than trying to create a plan before even arriving. Soliciting second-year students’ advice once you arrive is a great way to vet prospective classes, and everyone is accessible and eager to answer your questions!
Spend time with friends and family: Fletcher can be all-consuming in the best of ways, particularly in the first few weeks here. As such, it may be good to use the time before Fletcher to reconnect with your friends and family, discuss your graduate school plans, and also reflect on the experience you are wrapping up. How do you feel about leaving your current job or endeavor? What have been the highlights of the past couple of years? Transitions can be a whirlwind, and making time to process this one, especially with your loved ones, will allow you to invest in your new community with a clearer head and more energy.
Take care of outstanding responsibilities: Similarly, if at all possible, leave some time between your arrival in the Boston area and the start of Orientation. This will allow you to settle into your new place, get your bearings in the neighborhood, and develop a bit of a routine. That is also a good time to buy anything you may need for the semester (check out the Tufts-specific discounts that are part of the summer mailings you will receive), and to take care of errands before the studying kicks in. Doctors’ appointments, finishing up your previous job, external scholarship applications — all of these are easier to take care of before school begins!
Brush up on skills — but do not stress: Some of you will need to brush up on quantitative skills or your knowledge of economics or a language. If you have the energy and interest, it is not a bad idea to do that over the summer, particularly if you wish to sit for one of the qualifying exams in the fall. Think of which gaps you may wish or need to fill and be creative about how to do so before you arrive. However, do not let this ruin your summer or be a cause of stress — there are quite a few opportunities to take these tests. It’s just easiest to take them early — particularly with languages, if you have been keeping up with language practice — which is why Fletcher advises you to take the tests as soon as possible after you arrive.
Cast the “shoulds” aside: There are infinite ways to prepare for a new experience and lots of lists you could browse that would tell you a myriad of things you should do before graduate school. Ultimately, though, you know what you need more than anyone — and there are aspects of the Fletcher experience that will catch you by surprise or for which you couldn’t prepare even if you wanted to. This is part of the learning and the fulfillment here, so spend the summer in all the ways that resonate with you, take the advice that is useful for you, cast aside the rest, and arrive at Fletcher with an open mind for learning and an open heart for the new community of which you will soon be a part!
We’re down to the last few posts from Roxanne, Mirza, and Scott, our graduating bloggers. For this post, I asked Mirza to create what I like to call a curriculum résumé (a phrase I made up last year), in which he would describe his path through Fletcher and reflect on how everything weaves together. Like most Fletcher students, he’s honest about his non-linear path, as we can see by comparing his thoughts just before graduation to those in his first semester or at the start of his second semester.
Mirza Ramic (MALD, 2014)
Business Associate positions at various startups
Fields of Study
International Information and Communication
Communications and information policy and regulation, and the question of global governance
Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Hoping to help international organizations, non-profits, and private sector firms (or anyone, really) formulate effective and creative digital communications and online branding strategies
- Processes of International Negotiation
- International Communication
- Internal Conflicts and War
My Fletcher academic path might be a bit more on the “strange” side, but considering the rich diversity of Fletcher student backgrounds and interests, perhaps it’s not so left field. I came to Fletcher pretty determined to be a “Business MALD,” with business and economics courses lined up in my carefully planned academic spreadsheet. After a couple of days at Fletcher, I changed my strategy and instead decided to try a little bit of everything: conflict resolution, security studies, statistics/economics, and communications. I also wanted to get some of the breadth requirements out of the way early, and two courses (Negotiation and Econometrics) did precisely that. I placed out of the economics exam offered at the beginning of the semester, so I was able to take Econometrics and skip the introductory-level economics course.
- Analytic Frameworks for International Public Policy Decisions
- Entrepreneurial Marketing: Building a Winning Business Plan
- Political Economy After the Crisis (Harvard Law School)
- Values, Interests, and the Crafting of U.S. Foreign Policy (Harvard Kennedy School)
At the start of the spring semester, I was confused. I had no idea which direction I wanted to go in, and was considering returning to my original plan of a business-oriented MALD degree. I knew I definitely wanted to venture outside of Fletcher, so I took two courses at Harvard. One was excellent, another not so excellent, but both were valuable in different regards. I also took a business course at Fletcher, and enrolled in Analytic Frameworks since my thesis advisor, Professor Carolyn Gideon, taught it and her International Communication class in the fall semester was by far my favorite course thus far. Looking back, I should have fulfilled some more requirements during this semester, as I finished my first year without having completed a single Field of Study and without having met all my breadth requirements. Still, I don’t think this is unusual for Fletcher students as some of us tend to be all over the place. So if you’re in a similar situation, no need for panic whatsoever.
Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, Boston, MA
The Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston Public Policy Summer Fellow
Toward the end of my first semester, I began developing an interest in education, learning, and in particular, higher education reform. This seemed to be a natural extension of my interest in communication technologies and technological innovation, and especially after observing how learning could be enhanced in university classrooms, I became quite passionate about the ways in which technology could transform education. As a result, I applied for the Rappaport Fellowship for Public Policy offered through the Harvard Kennedy School, and was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the 14 Rappaport fellows. This allowed me to pick the state agency I would want to be involved with, and the Department of Higher Education was an obvious choice. There, I spent 10 weeks working with public institutions on various forward-looking initiatives advancing public higher education in Massachusetts, focusing on technology-based projects in particular. It was a great experience for many reasons, and helped me tailor my professional interests and academic direction.
- Starting New Ventures
- International Organizations
- Social Networks in Organizations (1/2 credit)
- Independent Study – Thesis (1/2 credit)
- Transforming Education through Emerging Technologies (Harvard Graduate School of Education)
I came into this semester quite focused. I took a course at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to advance my knowledge of the educational technology field, after spending an entire summer learning as much about the topic as I possibly could. This was a great decision. I met some great people, forged new relationships, and significantly extended my network. Moreover, my class project would turn into paid work the following semester, and may extend beyond this semester. I enrolled in International Organizations because I had to fulfill my last breadth requirement. I was not too happy about this, as I had been avoiding ILO (International Legal Order) courses since the beginning of my Fletcher career. I was a bit of a curmudgeon in the first week of class, and did not know what to expect from a visiting professor. Well, I would discover that I was 100% wrong on all accounts, as this turned out to be a highly intellectually stimulating class with a top-notch professor who I just absolutely loved. In fact, after swearing to avoid ILO, I decided to enroll in International Criminal Justice in my final semester with the same professor, John Cerone, and even decided to make International Organizations one of my Fields of Study. I think most Fletcher students would agree that a great professor can make all the difference in the world. For me, it made me appreciate and pursue a field I previously felt no interest in. Yes, this can happen in your second year, and it is absolutely thrilling. At the same time, I continued taking business courses, now focusing more specifically on entrepreneurship, new ventures, and innovation, with the idea that I might eventually go into the world of educational technology startups.
- Strategy and Innovation in the Evolving Context of International Business
- International Criminal Justice
- U.S. Public Diplomacy
- The Shapes of Utopia (Harvard Graduate School of Design)
My last semester has featured a combination of requirements and electives. Another business course to solidify my understanding of innovation and new ventures; a course on U.S. public diplomacy to expand my familiarity with communication in the public sector; the aforementioned International Criminal Justice course to pursue my newly discovered interest in international law; and, well, yes, a course at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. This class was recommended to me by a classmate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and I decided to give it a shot. It’s been an amazing course — highly theoretical and philosophical — and precisely what I wanted from my last semester of graduate school. This really affirms my belief that almost every field has some relevance to international relations: the Shapes of Utopia course has been as much about economics, politics, and sociology as it has been about architecture. I would indeed recommend venturing out and taking advantage of all the academic and learning resources and opportunities that Boston has to offer – even if it seems like you’re not exactly following your chosen academic trajectory.
I met yesterday with most of our student bloggers — Mirza, Scott, Mark, Diane, Liam, and Roxanne (who wasn’t able to join us, unfortunately). It’s strange that this was our farewell gathering, as it was also the first time that we had been together this year — nearly all of our interactions have been via email. (Some introductions were even needed.) Nonetheless, I’m glad that I’ll still be working with Mark, Diane, and Liam next year, and I’m going to be sad when Scott, Mirza, and Roxanne graduate next month.
We’re nearing the end of the second year of my little blog experiment, which consisted of reaching out to a few students (with no writing “audition” involved) and asking them to write semi-regularly about their Fletcher experience. I hope that blog readers agree that the six of them, plus Maliheh last year, have shined a light on what it’s like to be a Fletcher student.
The idea of having students tell their own stories came to me about two years ago. There’s nothing revolutionary about the idea, and any challenges came from the implementation. In particular, the key flaw in the plan is that students are already doing a lot of writing, and they have limited time. Writing for the blog often slides to the back burner. (And the only compensation is a Fletcher water bottle filled with trail mix.) My job, then, is primarily to provide gentle reminders, while understanding that many other Fletcher commitments need to come first. The gathering itself served as a kind of reminder, and I believe that we’ll have another five or six posts from this group before the summer.
Yesterday’s meeting resulted in a few new ideas. First, there was agreement that two posts per semester per student is a fair goal. I agreed that I should aim to bring in at least one more international student when I recruit first-year bloggers in September. And we decided that on about October 1, I’ll post a survey so that prospective students can ask questions of the student bloggers. Overall, though, we’ll stick with the concept of having students suggest topics that interest them and then figuring out “deadlines” that work, in and around their other assignments. It’s an evolving project, and one that gives me an additional opportunity to work with students, which is one of the best parts of my job.
Some lovely news for Roxanne, our second-year student blogger and a rock star in the Fletcher community. In a ceremony yesterday, Roxanne was given the University’s Presidential Award for Citizenship and Public Service. Lucky for me, another student, Kate, grabbed a photo:
In his introduction, Dean Sheehan refers to Roxanne’s TED talk, which you may also want to watch.
Congratulations to Roxanne!!
It’s a rare Fletcher student who pursues only one out-of-class activity, and our student bloggers are no exception. First-year MALD student, Liam, is training with the Tufts Marathon Team to run in Monday’s Boston Marathon. As many readers know, this year’s Marathon will be different from the norm, coming one year after the tragic events of 2013, and giving many runners a sense of mission that goes beyond their personal best times. Here’s Liam’s report.
One of the incredible opportunities available to Fletcher students is the chance to join the Tufts Marathon Team and train for and run the Boston Marathon. Each year, the Tufts Marathon Team gets 100 bib numbers for students, faculty, staff, and alumni from throughout the Tufts community to run the race. With participants ranging from first-time runners to seasoned veterans of multiple marathons, Coach Don Megerle does an amazing job training and selecting the team, and he provides unmatched motivation and advice to ensure that all runners finish. The team supports two long runs each week, as well as a weekly speed workout, and in the winter the team takes part in five long runs that cover the entire Marathon course. By participating in these runs, Fletcher students can meet other graduate students from throughout Tufts, as well as undergrads and some great alumni and staff, helping us make connections to those we may not otherwise meet, outside the walls of Ginn library. All runners raise money towards nutrition, medical, and fitness programs at Tufts University, including research on childhood obesity at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Since the Team’s inception in 2003, runners have raised over $4 million.
This year, obviously, the Marathon takes on even more significance than it normally does in the fabric of Boston. The tragic events of April 15, 2013 united the Boston community, and each runner on the Tufts team is strongly committed to the event. The stories of a few of this year’s 13 Fletcher runners speak to how incredible this year’s race will be. Second-year Fletcher student Alex Nisetich sums up his Marathon story as follows:
I’m a Boston native, and the Marathon has always been a part of my life here. I decided to run after last year’s attack, as a demonstration of solidarity with the runners and with my home city. My own family narrowly missed being caught in the attack, and in a different year we could all have been there at the finish line. I’m running because it feels like the best way I can support my community and commemorate the events of last year.
Training has become an end in itself as well. Getting out on the road, especially first thing in the morning, is a great way to overcome any fears you might have of a New England winter. The Fletcher community and Tufts are both very supportive of the runners, which makes it a pleasure to train. The team runs really build camaraderie and make it fun.
Another second-year MALD student, Stéfane Laroche, shares a similar tale:
I have always enjoyed running and flirted with the idea of running a marathon for many years, however I never had the courage and the motivation to train. Last year’s events at the Marathon changed my perspective. The devastation happened so close to home that it touched me, and I decided to run in order to support the Boston Strong campaign. When life knocks you down, you’ve got to be strong, pick yourself up, and continue to live. It’s an honor for me to run with all those other marathoners who will pay tribute to last year’s victims and who will make a statement against intolerance and misunderstandings that fuel hatred and anger around the world.
For me, personally, I had recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan when the bombing happened. Growing up in Central Massachusetts, the attack hit home. Although I had always run in the past due to my job as an Army officer, I never contemplated running another marathon after an ill-advised and untrained undergrad endeavor in 2005. Running the 2014 Boston Marathon became an obsession for me, a way to show the world that we would not let this attack change who we are. I trained for months and ran a marathon in October in nearby Lowell and felt ready to take on the world come the Boston race in April. Then I began dealing with lingering knee and hip injuries, so my training has taken on its own personal journey, as I’ve worked to find ways to balance recovery with running and the ever-demanding life as a Fletcher student. For me, the process has been an incredible voyage of learning about myself, what I value, how hard I will work for it, and what it means to stand as one for a community.
Although every runner’s story is different, one commonality is certain — all 37,000 runners who make that 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton to the finish line on Boylston Street on April 21 will do so with some pain in their legs and sweat on their foreheads, but most importantly, with pride in their hearts. With tens of thousands of supporters cheering us along the course, we will show the world what being Boston Strong is about. Being able to be a part of this has truly been one of the more remarkable aspects of my time thus far at Fletcher.
It had always been my plan to line up a first-year MIB student to contribute to the Student Stories in the blog. I just hadn’t anticipated it would take me until March. My own lack of speed notwithstanding, I’d like to introduce Mark Attia, a first-year (at least for two more months) MIB student. Following his second year, Mark will leave Tufts with two master’s degrees — from Fletcher and from the department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. That (MIB and UEP) is, to date, a unique combination, and today he writes about how he (or you) can develop expertise at Fletcher.
For Fletcher students with wide-ranging curiosities, choosing from some 80 fascinating courses offered each semester is like shopping in an “intellectual candy store,” as one of my professors put it. But, for those of us who have more narrowly focused interests, it may not be obvious how Fletcher’s interdisciplinary curriculum will make it possible to build a thorough body of knowledge in the area of your unique passion. After all, there may not be a specific course on, say, private equity frameworks for emerging markets, impact investing, or sustainable commodity financing. Yet each of these are precisely the kind of subject areas that some of my classmates are exploring, well beyond the scope of our syllabi.
To a great extent, the well designed and complementary Fields of Study and breadth requirements will help concentrate your efforts. Even so, there is yet another avenue through which you can develop your own area of expertise: within most courses, you’ll find the flexibility to select case studies and write research papers on matters of your choosing pertaining to the subject area. In my experience, this option is a powerful way to examine an area of scholarship from multiple perspectives, and emerge from Fletcher fully armed with an arsenal of hand-picked skills and knowledge.
Here is how I am approaching developing my own areas of expertise. But first, let me give you a bit of background. In my view, global urbanization is the most consequential development of our lifetime; a phenomenon which carries far-reaching implications for all facets of the socio-economy, environment, and business. I see a rapidly evolving world where our attention will increasingly be focused on the opportunities found in emerging-market cities, and I turned to The Fletcher School to deepen my understanding of this global urban context. Before Fletcher, I had a mix of experience, including with a major water utility and a low-income housing finance bank, and I subsequently pursued a degree in Urban and Environmental Planning here at Tufts. For my Fletcher Fields, I selected International Finance and Banking and International Political Economy. My aspiration is to harness these experiences and learning and join a private firm with global reach engaged in developing core civil infrastructure assets and real estate.
Right from the start, I began asking questions relevant to my interests. For example, what is the role of real estate bubbles in triggering a financial crisis? In one elective, History of Financial Turbulence and Crises, I was able to research elements of the relationship, and discovered ill-forgotten lessons from around the world. How do we solve inhumane slum conditions in frontier cities? In Development Aid in Practice, I presented to the class on an innovative incremental-housing solution that is addressing the burgeoning urban slums in India. How is urbanization impacting the environment? In Elements of International Environmental Policy, I wrote a final paper on the benefits and challenges for cities and surveyed policies aimed at sustainable urban development. How do we finance the infrastructure that the world needs to grow? In Large Investment and International Project Finance, our case analyses covered sectors from high-speed rail, to the Three-Gorges Dam, toll-roads in Europe, and oil assets in Kazakhstan. How do we negotiate cross-boarder deals? In Mergers & Acquisitions, a law class, I examined the takeover of Australian infrastructure assets by a Canadian firm. I could go on, but you get the idea.
In total, I have largely relied on the magic of the proven Fletcher formula to guide my learning. But I have also been encouraged and given the resources to dig deeper into my passion through my coursework. (By the way, I am entirely ignoring the irreplaceable contribution of our extraordinary classmates, faculty, and guest speakers in this discussion, but these are easily the subject of other posts.) If you’re not sure where your passion lies, at Fletcher you will embark on an intellectual adventure that will expose you to a world of fascination. But, if you are confident that you know your academic goals, Fletcher offers a limitless reservoir of resources and opportunities to help you achieve these goals and emerge exceptionally well prepared for any career.
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